Spelling, grammar and punctuation (SPaG) are important aspects of any written work your child will produce for their 11 Plus English exam. Unfortunately, this is an area that many children lose marks on in their 11 Plus creative writing and their English comprehension.
If you want your child to avoid these mistakes, and demonstrate they have the high standard of English SPaG in their exam paper, you’ll want to continue reading this guide.
The Underestimated Importance of Grammar
Grammar isn’t merely a set of rules; it’s the scaffolding that holds language together. Poor grammar can undermine the clarity and impact of an otherwise stellar essay or creative writing piece – we read so many wonderfully crafted stories that lose impact, coherence and clarity because of poor grammar.
The Perils of Punctuation
Incorrect punctuation has the ability to alter the intended meaning of sentences while also making them more difficult to comprehend. Therefore, it is crucial to use proper punctuation in order to convey a clear message. This is an area that many children can struggle to get a handle on during their 11 Plus English preparation. This is why it is important to incorporate feedback and review sessions in your child’s 11 Plus exam preparation.
Homophones and Confusions
Example: Compare “Let’s eat, Grandma!” with “Let’s eat Grandma!”—one small comma makes a world of difference in meaning.
Words like “their,” “there,” and “they’re” often trip up students.
Insight: Knowing the difference is critical because these errors can be glaring to examiners and are considered basic mistakes that older students should not make.
Example: “Their coats are over there, and they’re not looking.”
Run-on Sentences and Fragments
These are common errors where either too many ideas are crammed into a single sentence without proper punctuation or a sentence is incomplete.
Example: Run-on: “He ran and he jumped and he shouted.” Better: “He ran, jumped, and shouted.”
Example: Fragment: “Running fast.” Better: “He is running fast.”
A fundamental rule, but one that students often forget under time pressure.
These are errors that immediately signal to the marker of any 11 Plus English paper that the student in question lacks attention to detail and understanding of the basic subject-verb agreement, and this can be costly. SPaG often accounts for around 20% of the total marks in the 11 Plus exam paper.
Example: Incorrect: “The team are winning.” Correct: “The team is winning.”
Misuse of Apostrophes
Whether it’s confusing “it’s” with “its” or adding unnecessary apostrophes, these mistakes are common but easily avoided.
Example: Incorrect: “The dog wagged it’s tail.” Correct: “The dog wagged its tail.”
Checklist for Avoiding Common Grammatical Errors:
- Understand the Importance: Make sure your child knows that grammar is not secondary but integral to good writing.
- Punctuation Practice: Use exercises to highlight the importance of correct punctuation.
- Homophone Drills: Regularly quiz your child on commonly confused words.
- Sentence Structure: Teach your child the importance of both complete sentences and varied structure for readability.
- Agreement Rules: Revisit subject-verb agreement rules periodically.
- Apostrophe Usage: Practice correct usage through writing exercises.